One Second After by William R. Forstchen – A fantastic and necessary read

One Second After is a novel written by William R. Forstchen (Macmillan Publishers) that paints a very frightening, and eye-opening, depiction of how quickly the world would descend into chaos in the days and weeks following an EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse) that instantaneously plunges more than half the globe into total chaos after electricity ceases to exist.

To say that One Second After is a page-turner is like saying a tsunami moves a tiny bit of water.  From the very first chapter to now, just having finished the second installment of the series titled ‘One Year After’, the edge of my seat is dented from my ample assets resting upon it, clutching my phone and desperately speed reading to find out what happens next?!

With brilliant storytelling and a compelling dynamic of characters and situations, One Second After shares very valuable lessons on what it takes to have the courage to stay true to yourself, your family, your community and your country in the event of a national crisis in this extreme.

John Matherson, the main character in these three-part series, was on the fast track to the highest ranking level he could achieve in his military career when his family is devastated by learning their loving wife and mother has become terminally ill.

A decision is made whereby John declines the military’s offer to promote him and moves his family to Black Mountain, North Carolina, where his beloved wife can be comforted through her final days with familiar surroundings and support from family and longtime friends.

The Matherson family idyllically resides in a beautiful home located in a quaint, mountainside town and is completed with two faithful labrador retrievers who become heroes in their own right.  Life goes on while John steps back into civilian life as a much respected and well-liked history professor at the local college.

On a bright sunny day that was supposed to be spent celebrating John’s eldest daughter’s twelfth birthday, World War III has struck without warning in the form of an EMP attack which disables a good portion of the world’s electrical power.  For the Matherson’s and their neighbors, the realization of the severity of the dire situation they now face is slow to form but quick to have extreme consequences.

One Second After brings up very real life and death issues that most people don’t think about; not because they don’t care or don’t want to, but because they don’t have to.  Everything people need to survive on a day to day basis is within easy reach and we are downright spoiled by convenience.  Most of society does not have a glimpse of a clue as to how fragile life truly is.

The emotional rollercoaster caused by the Matherson family’s personal and communal fight to simply eat and stay alive is both heartbreaking and inspiring.  Getting to know the Matherson family is a deeply moving and personal journey, which takes the reader down their road of tragic loss and spectacular triumph throughout their struggles to simply survive in a world gone mad.

The power of this story lies in blatantly laying out how woefully prepared our so-called “advanced society” is for a long term local catastrophe, never mind a global one.  What struck me like a karate fist to the sternum was the speed at which society began to collapse.

To put yourself in John Matherson’s shoes, imagine that right this second, as you are reading this humble review, the power suddenly goes out.  Everything stops working.  You pick up your cell phone to call a neighbor and see if they know what caused the power outage and how long it might last.  The screen lights up, the correct button is pressed but nothing happens.  Cell phones no longer work because the electricity that supplies service to the towers that send signals to the cell phone is obliterated.

At first, nobody panics because the power company usually has these matters repaired and back up and running within a few hours or a day or two, at most.  Not this time. Days turn into weeks and weeks into months.

Within days, or for a lucky few weeks, people who have inadequate supplies of food, water and medicines will run out and begin to panic as pain and starvation take hold of their bodies.  Looting begins and the race to stay alive is on.

Most of us go to the store and buy food, which we then put into the trusted refrigerator, which magically keeps everything cold and fresh – as long as it is working.  Anyone who has been through a power failure or had their electricity cut off knows how fast food from a fridge or freezer can spoil.  It truly doesn’t take long at all.

Without power, the fridge stops cooling and the remaining food quickly molds and rots.  Without refrigeration, many medications become ineffective within a very short period of time.  Even if refrigeration was still available, the store and pharmacy owners have either left town, died or are armed and protecting what is left.  In times like these, the values of humanity are tested to its very core.

In reading One Second After I was inspired to look at my own surroundings including my home and my community.  Doing so was a hard dose of reality.  Thankfully, I do not require medication to power my body to keep getting out of bed every day.  Many people will perish when their lifesaving medications run out.  I was horrified to realize that my cupboards are pathetically low in basic food supplies.  

At a whopping 5’10” with a body weight that hovers between 190 and 200 pounds, my required daily caloric intake requirements and the existing amount of food and water in my immediate vicinity, I would survive no more than 7 days.  I am willing to bet there are thousands, if not millions of people in the same horrific position.  Many people would not survive the first week.

Once the store shelves are empty, all the animals have been slaughtered, the street drugs, alcohol and cigarettes have been consumed, fuel is in rare supply just as winter sets in, how do an individual, a family, and a community survive?

One Second After is not just a page-turning adventure through an inconceivable ‘what if?’ scenario.  This novel borders on being a survival guide book that hopefully will start readers thinking about their own preparedness in the event of a long-lasting or, God forbid, a global catastrophic event.

Without someone like the novel’s hero, John Matherson, to lead and guide you, how prepared are you to last for days, months or years without power, water, fuel or food?  How long will you survive?

I encourage every single person on this planet to get a copy of this book, devour it and read it again; take notes and make a game plan.  While the situation will most likely not happen in our lifetime, it is not out of the realm of possibility.  How prepared are you?

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